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Coldwell Banker: Office Employees Want Private Spaces, Limited Noise

A Coldwell Banker Commercial survey found that almost three-quarters of employed adults would be comfortable working in an open office if they had access to a private space or small work areas, and if noise and distractions were limited. Pictured is a WeWork space in New York City.

MADISON, N.J. — The open office concept, which became a prominent design trend over the last decade, has declined in popularity with concerns over a lack of privacy and distractions. New research commissioned by Coldwell Banker Commercial and conducted online in late September by The Harris Poll found that almost three-quarters of employed adults would be comfortable working in an open office if they had access to a private space or small work areas, and if noise and distractions were limited.

The consumer survey of more than 2,000 adults ages 18 and older found that Americans seem to consider private and quiet spaces more important than team-meeting spaces, as only 66 percent of respondents said they would be amenable to working in an open office if there were large meeting spaces or conference rooms available.

Also less appealing was sharing workspace, as 52 percent of those surveyed would not be comfortable working in an open office if it meant multiple workers in one workspace.

“It’s important for commercial building designs to accommodate a variety of working styles, and the more we know what workers want — in this case, an open office with private spaces and limited noise — the better our affiliates can help clients locate the right space for their people,” says Charlie Young, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC.

Use of space can be improved

While ping-pong tables and nap rooms may make headlines, most workers are looking for simple improvements that would make a big difference in their work experience, says Coldwell Banker. For example, 63 percent of U.S. working adults said their office could better utilize its physical space. A better floor plan was most cited.

Nearly all respondents (88 percent) said it would be helpful to have certain features located within the workplace, such as on-site food options, parking and outdoor spaces.

Interestingly, the desire for parking decreased from 64 percent to 57 percent compared with last year’s survey results. This year-over-year decline could perhaps signal a change in commutes, says Coldwell Banker. Broken down by age, 46 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe having enough parking would be helpful, compared with 62 percent of those ages 55 to 64.

While companies with a large millennial workforce are often associated with extensive office amenities, the survey found that older Americans are actually more likely to find certain office amenities useful. Sixty-one percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 would find an office food court, cafeteria or restaurant helpful, compared with 53 percent of those ages 18 to 34.

“As more companies seek to ensure their employees can achieve work-life balance, investing in an office cafeteria where employees can share a meal together, or an outdoor space where they can take some time to relax or work outside can improve employee wellbeing and create a sense of belonging,” says Young. “Commercial real estate professionals will want to counsel their clients on the needs and wants of today’s workforce.”

— Kristin Hiller

 The survey of 2,008 adults, including Gen Z and younger millennials (18-34), older millennials (35-44), Gen X (45-54) and baby boomers (55 and up), was conducted to identify Americans’ attitudes toward their physical workplace and better understand how office space can be optimized to meet worker needs and comfort. Of the respondents, 1,114 are employed.

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